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Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides resign at EPA | 17 states sue EPA over car emissions rules | Volkswagen to pay West Virginia $2.5M over emissions cheating

Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides resign at EPA | 17 states sue EPA over car emissions rules | Volkswagen to pay West Virginia $2.5M over emissions cheating
© Greg Nash

EPA RESIGNATIONS: Two top officials at the EPA offered their resignation this week. Albert "Kel' Kelly, who was hired to lead the Superfund program last year, resigned Tuesday and Pruitt's head of security Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta resigned Monday, EPA confirmed.

The two figures have recently been mired in controversy.

Kelly has been under fire almost from the start for his lack of a scientific background and his own financial history.

It was first reported last December that Kelly was banned from working in the banking sector for life. Pruitt hired Kelly not long after as an adviser for the Superfund program. Kelly used to lead SpiritBank, based in Pruitt's hometown of Tulsa, Okla. The two have known each other for years, and Kelly got Pruitt financing for a mortgage and to help buy a minor league baseball team.

Lawmakers have increasingly pushed against Kelly's appointment at the agency. Members pressed Pruitt in front of House committee hearing last week for Kelly to appear before them to answer questions about his banking past. Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersDem lawmakers seek distance from Waters call for confrontation More information leads to better quality care for patients. Congress can help Overnight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides resign at EPA | 17 states sue EPA over car emissions rules | Volkswagen to pay West Virginia .5M over emissions cheating MORE (D-Calif.) asked Pruitt if he would produce Kelly in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee on environment in the interests of "transparency."

Pruitt responded: "I'm not standing in the way of Mr. Kelly of providing information in front of this committee or any other committee. It's a decision he can make."

Perrotta spent his last day at the EPA Tuesday.

The career political official and former Secret Service agent has been under the microscope lately for decisions he's made as Pruitt's security chief as well reports that he used his power to influence a number of EPA security contracts.

Pruitt has frequently cited Perrotta as the security official who signed off on his controversial first-class travel.

Perrotta has also been linked to concerns about a number of Pruitt's security contracts, including an April 2017 security sweep in the administrator's office. The sweep was completed by Edwin Steinmetz, a business partner of Perrotta's at Sequoia Security Group.

Perrotta told ABC News that the press coverage was taking a toll.

"All of this press is taking a toll on my family. I decided to move on and it's been an honor to serve," he said Tuesday.

Read more about Kelly and Perrotta.

 

Welcome to The Hill's Overnight Energy. Tuesday was a big day for emissions news at both the state and federal level. And Democrats are raising new questions about another issue involving EPA chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation MORE.

 

WEST VIRGINIA, VOLKSWAGEN REACH $2.6M EMISSIONS SETTLEMENT: Automaker Volkswagen and two of its affiliates have agreed to pay West Virginia $2.65 million for failing to adhere to U.S. smog standards.

The settlement comes after the carmaker admitted in 2015 to using a device to cheat on smog tests. Volkswagen said that about 500,000 of its cars in the U.S. were outfitted with a "defeat device" that allowed the cars to pass national emissions tests.

Under the settlement announced Tuesday, Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi agreed to never engage in deceptive practices in future dealings in West Virginia.

"This settlement marks a huge victory for West Virginia consumers," the state's Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said. "Trust is a crucial element to the consumer-business relationship. This should send a strong message that our office will vigorously pursue anyone whose actions erode that relationship."

Costly settlements: Don't forget: Volkswagen reached a $33.5 million settlement with Maryland last week. And in October 2016, it reached a $14.7 billion settlement with federal and California regulators.

From Volkswagen: "Volkswagen's agreement with West Virginia fully resolves all claims asserted by the state related to the diesel matter and is another important step forward for our company and our shareholders," said company spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan in a statement.

Read more here.

 

CALIFORNIA LEADS SUIT AGAINST EPA CAR EMISSIONS CHANGES:  Seventeen states sued the EPA on Tuesday, following the agencies decision to reevaluate Obama-era vehicle emissions standards. The suit also follows reports that the Department of Transportation will likely recommend a proposal that similarly seeks to weaken emissions.

The lawsuit, filed in District Court Tuesday, also challenges proposed changes to policies that could change California and other states' ability to put in place emissions standards that are tougher than the national standard.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraPublic charge rule is a cruel attack on children Federal judge rules against Sessions's effort to hit sanctuary cities Internet providers sue California over net neutrality law MORE (D) said the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Administrative Procedures Act, which bars against arbitrary and capricious decisions, and violated the Clean Air Act last month when it withdrew the greenhouse gas standard and the related Department of Transportation efficiency standards for model year 2022 through 2025 light-duty vehicles.

Becerra's office said the federal standard that states are suing to protect was estimated to reduce carbon pollution by an amount equivalent to 134 coal power plants burning for a year. The also said the standard saved drivers $1,650 per vehicle.

The states argue the EPA did not give evidence to support its decision to weaken the rule and they are now asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review its decision.

Read more here.

 

Bloomberg backs lawsuit: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, currently the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action, hailed the suit as part of a "broader movement" against the Trump administration.

"The EPA cannot stop Americans from taking action on climate change. The 17 states joining California in this suit are part of a broader movement of states, cities, and businesses that are driving down emissions without any help from Washington. The EPA would have better luck trying to require horse-and-buggies than they would trying to stop the push for cleaner vehicles," Bloomberg said in a statement Tuesday.

 

Lawmakers worried about emissions: Also on Tuesday, Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called on the heads of the EPA and Transportation Department to reconsider changes to the nationwide vehicle emissions standards, calling their proposals "extreme." Speaking specifically about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) draft proposal, which he obtained independently, Carper called the guidance "legally questionable."

He said such a proposal would "harm U.S. national and economic security, undermine efforts to combat global warming pollution, create regulatory and manufacturing uncertainty for the automobile industry and unnecessary litigation, increase the amount of gasoline consumers would have to buy."

Read more here.

 

NEW QUESTIONS FOR PRUITT: Three Democrats on the House Science Committee on Tuesday sent letters requesting additional information on whether Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sought to establish a new agency office in his hometown. Reps. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority DHS declined to let officials testify at hearing on cell surveillance, chairman says EPA says it abandoned plan for office in Pruitt’s hometown MORE (Texas), Donald Beyer (Va.) and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciReporter tops lawmakers to win charity spelling bee Lawmakers, media serve up laughs at annual 'Will on the Hill' Congress — when considering women’s health, don’t forget about lung cancer MORE (Ore.), the top-ranking Democrats on the committee, wrote to Pruitt and General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy to gather more information about a possible EPA office in Tulsa, Okla.

Background: The lawmakers cited media reports about Pruitt's frequent travel to Tulsa and noted emails that show Pruitt asked staff in January 2017 to examine opening an EPA office near his hometown, even though the regional office is located in Dallas. They asked for floor plans, any work requests or memos about a Tulsa office.

Key quote: "Establishing a new EPA office in Tulsa may be personally convenient for you, but it seems ethically questionable, professionally unnecessary, and financially unjustified," they wrote.

Read more here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Oil and gas giant, BP, cut off free bottled water to a Nevada tribe living next to a Superfund site, the Reno Gazette Journal reports.

Utah will have three years to bring its ozone emissions down, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Pakistan's top environmental regulator will install air quality monitors at factories after a court ruled it must measure its efforts to control worsening air pollution, Reuters reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE:

Karl Cates, managing editor at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, looks at the fate of the Navajo Generating Station and the impact the project will have on future energy investments.

America needs a strategic mix of diverse fuel sources to reduce the financial burden on consumers while also protecting the environment and growing the economy, says David L. Mercer, president of Mercer & Associates and a former DNC deputy national finance director.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Tuesday...

-West Virginia reaches $2.6M settlement with Volkswagen over emissions scandal

-Nearly half a million people sign petition urging McDonald's to stop using plastic straws

-Dem senator urges reconsideration of Trump vehicle emissions plan

-17 states sue Trump administration over rolling back vehicle emission standards

-Warren, Sanders want climate change considered in selection of homeland security adviser

-Pruitt's head of security resigns

-Climate group raises money to carve Trump's face into glacier

-Top Pruitt aide who was banned from banking sector out at EPA